Social media sites such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter have been cited as the single most potent threat to peace and cohesion in the Coast region.
A report released by a Mombasa-based peace and security organisation observed a worrying spread of hate message on the platforms. The report by the Kenya Community Support Centre (KECOSCE) that covers early election violence warning activities also raised concerns that hate messages on the sites have the capacity to strain ethnic relations.
KECOSCE executive director Phyllis Muema said so far, 39 incidences related to early election violence have been reported to the police for action. She said proliferation of illegal gangs and election-related incidences in Lamu, Tana River, Kilifi and Mombasa, which have been mapped as hotspot areas for election-related violence.
“Major threats to peace ahead of the election come from illegal gangs, fear of eviction and propaganda, hate speech and hate leaflets in the Coast,” she said.
The report notes that while the perceived hotspot areas of Ng’ombeni, Waa and Dzombo in Kwale county remained quiet, there were reports that hate and propaganda messages were being directed at the Makonde community warning them of dire consequences if they voted for Jubilee Party.
The report said politicians who are vying for various positions in the counties were exploiting inter-ethnic tensions for their selfish benefits. In Tana River county for example, the report observed that the killing of a county driver by unknown people was used to pursue a divisive agenda among the various communities supporting political contenders from the two rival communities.
“The killing of the driver not only raised the red flag on the potential for escalating the underlying conflict between the two communities in the region but also build up on incidences of violence that have been documented in previous early warning reports,” said Muema.
The report also noted what seemed to be a scramble for supremacy between criminal gangs in Mombasa where a group calling itself the notorious crazy boys of Mombasa Old Town released a video warning on planned attacks on other criminal gangs in the Mombasa Island area. The report however noted that all the six counties of Coast region had witnessed heighten security and peace dialogues.